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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)

Bereaved parents look sadly at some baby shoes Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) is a term that describes any sudden and unexpected death of a pēpi (baby) up to one year of age.

The cause of some sudden unexpected deaths may be found by investigation, such a post mortem examination. Possible causes include an infection, a genetic condition, or an unsafe place to sleep. If the death of a pēpi baby remains unexplained, it may be called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

SUDI is a leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand pēpi.

The main known risk factors for SUDI are:

Being accidentally suffocated while sleeping one of the commonest causes of SUDI. See Safe sleeping for babies for information on how to prevent this.

If a pēpi has died suddenly and unexpectedly, the police will need to be involved. They will offer Victim Support, even though there is no crime. Several people will look into what has happened, including the coroner and the SUDI liaison team. This includes performing a post mortem, carefully reviewing the clinical history, looking into the circumstances of death and visiting the place where the pēpi died.

In Canterbury, you'll be contacted and offered a free appointment with a paediatrician ( specialist children’s doctor) to discuss the post mortem findings once the report is available.

In Canterbury, LinKIDS will be told about the death of your pēpi so they can inform other health professionals who have been involved in caring for your pēpi.

Getting help after SUDI

Having a pēpi baby die is a devastating time for a whānau (family). Support from others can help you and your whānau family get through this very difficult time.

There are several ways to get financial support after SUDI has affected your whānau.

If you meet the criteria you will still be able to have paid parental leave and whānau may be able to take bereavement leave. If you are receiving Best Start payments they will continue for four weeks. You may also be able to get help with funeral expenses. Read more at Whetūrangitia.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2021.

Page reference: 130754

Review key: HIUCB-33560